In 2018 SSTA made the decision to enter the Spaceport America Cup for the first time. The team picked one of the most difficult categories to compete in, 10k SRAD hybrid. This was a huge undertaking for a small group of students that had very limited previous experience in rocketry.
In the fall semester of 2018 the team led by Drew Nickel and Peter Tarlé experimented on the university's horizontal test stand to find the best hybrid fuel and grain design. After testing a multitude of different fuels the team decided to move forward with a high regression rate 3D printed ABS matrix filled with pulverized anthracite coal and a catalyst.
In the spring of 2019 the team worked on the payload and the assembly of the airframe. The payload consisted of a mechanism that would open three bays in the airframe. These bays collected air samples through the use of sterilized open-cell melamine foam blocks in the hope of finding microbial life.
In June of 2019 the Spaceport America Cup competition was held. The SSTA team drove from Knoxville to New Mexico to attend the competition. After many late nights and early mornings the time had come to see if their hard work paid off. On June 22nd the team launched Andromeda to an altitude of 7,400 ft. and a speed of Mach 0.7. The rocket was successfully recovered, not without a little trek into the desert, without a scratch on it. To the teams delight, the payload worked flawlessly. After some investigation into the payload sample the team found a fungus had been captured in the atmosphere.
Although the Andromeda team did not place in the competition many lessons were learned about rocketry and competing against other very adept teams. Students at UTK had a taste of rocketry competition and they were eager for more. After returning from New Mexico the team went straight to work on what would be their most ambitious design to date, Redshift.